Two weeks ago I was in Sacramento for a wedding with my partner, and we both came to an odd realization- neither of us had ever been to the State Capitol. Both of us were born and raised in California, so I know it seems like a shocker. However, I recently heard from a Scotsman I know that he had never visited London until he had to travel there for a visa.
Construction of the building was completed between 1861 and 1874, and based off of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. If you want to read more about the history of the building, please click here to be taken to the California State Capitol website- they do a wonderful job of illustrating the history of the building.
We were able to easily park in a small structure directly across the street, and walked over to the front of the building. Unfortunately, it was raining so badly that I was unable to take out my camera to take a picture, so the one above is one I found online of how it looks 99.9% of the time in sunny California. We quickly scampered over to one of the entrances, went through the security screening, and made our way into the building.
The fist thing we saw were a few long hallways with display windows, each representing the many counties of the state. We of course checked out the display for Los Angeles and some of our other local favorites! It is a nice way to provide visitors with a snapshot of what the different counties are about and what is going on. Some had a series of pictures, some had representations of products they produce or grow such as wine or oranges, and others had representations of recreation and scenery.
Our first stop along the way was a small area that was the military museum, in which they had on display memorabilia and uniforms from different periods. The docent in this area was very kind and helpful- such a rarity nowadays in American museums it seems! I enjoyed the overall displays. There were nothing fancy, but they were for the most part clear and simple. I did notice that the uniform stands in the large cases were not perfectly parallel with the back of the case and were dusty, but details such as these would only bother someone like me rather than the average visitor. I loved the under lighting of one of the machine guns in this exhibition that cast a shadow on the wall- perfect! Atmosphere, aesthetics, and attraction all with one simple spotlight.
We then ventured further into the building, and checked out some of the historic rooms that they have roped off. I wish we could have walked into the rooms, but they were roped off only allowing us to peek in through the doorway. I did see typical museum walking rugs set up in a path through the room, but I cannot tell you if they are there for the cleaners, or for specially guided tours.
We then made our way to the rotunda, and spent a great deal of time staring upwards at the beautiful colors and intricate designs of the paneling and windows. We did the same thing when we saw the State Seal in the ceiling down another hallway. One of the assistants there was kind enough to let us into a roped off area to take a few photos. Again, I was amazed at how kind and helpful the staff was.
As we spent the morning perusing about, I was impressed with how little the staff seemed to interfere with our experience. We were able to go wherever we wanted, regardless of who or what was in session. We were able to take silly selfies with paintings of our favorite governors, and quietly admire the beautifully crafted sculptures. I am sure that part of this is due to a more government building frame of mind rather than a museum building frame of mind. To be fair, it is both. I enjoyed the energy of the building. Dozens of school tours were sweeping throughout the building, the kids buzzing with excitement. It was a place that was alive, working, teaching, and evolving. In hindsight as I write this blog post over a cup of tea, I have come to a few realizations.
I do not want museums to be quote on quote government buildings, but I do want them to have some of the same qualities. Museums should be alive, working, teaching, and most of all, evolving. If remaining stagnant does not work for governmental bodies, then how can it work for museums? The California State Capitol has the past, present, and future all living within on site. They have museum areas with memorabilia, they have representatives voting on laws, and they have the children watching it all happen and thinking about their lives ahead. Museums just need to find out how they fit into the present and the future, as they already hands down have the past! How can museums take action now, and make an impact on others for the future? Food for thought.
If you want to see more photos from my trip, check out my photo gallery post here.
Peace and long life.